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 Wallace Wylie

8 Things You Should Avoid Saying in Response to a Music Review You Dislike

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5. Don’t say “Who the fuck are you?” or “Well what is it you do?”

This one is truly pathetic. On the one hand, there is the implication that an opinion must only be respected if it comes hand-in-hand with financial success (so the commenter is a brown-nosing sycophant) and, on the other hand, there is the suggestion that the opinions of the reviewer are easily dismissed due to the fact that their life has been an unsuccessful one (so the commenter is a smug, conceited prick who gives higher prestige to those who show signs of societal success). The commenter here is trying to belittle the reviewer by using the basest psychological ploy of all, which is to undermine their opinion by undermining their entire life and purpose, all to defend the honour of a recording artist who probably knows nothing of this little commotion. It is the lowest kind of ad hominem attack, disregarded off-hand by all but the most idiotic.

6. Don’t call the reviewer a failed musician.

This relates to point 5 in that the commenter in question is trying to undermine the reviewer’s point by implying that they are a failure at life. Have you read Lester Bangs? He is generally considered one of the most gifted, articulate and all around life-altering music writers to sit down at a typewriter. His passion, wit, intelligence, anger and humanity spilled out over everything he wrote. To many he is still the standard against which one has to measure oneself to be considered a good writer. Guess what? He was a failed musician. Now put that in your pipe and choke on it you ignorant bastard. Calling the reviewer a failed musician is boring, predictable and downright embarrassing (and for the most part wrong). If somebody in your social circle had dreams of being an architect, but dropped out and instead became a chef, would you dismiss their restaurant by saying “The food is terrible because they couldn’t make it as an architect”? Of course you wouldn’t because people would mock your laughable excuse for an opinion. Expect the same result on a music website.

7. Don’t use the artist’s personality to defend their work.

The artist is by all accounts a nice person but that does not under any circumstances make their art worthwhile. So they worked hard for their success? Artistic merit is not based on hard work. If you like to see hard work rewarded watch The World’s Strongest Man. So they are nice to their fans? That is truly a plus but it doesn’t mean they deserve less scrutiny. A review should contain good writing and, at some point, an honest appraisal of the music. That’s it. If somebody wants a pat on the back for being a good person, the last place they should look for it is a music review.

8. Don’t describe the reviewer as bitter.

So I just reviewed your favourite artist and I ripped them a new one. You’re angry. You’re really angry. What are you gonna do about it, huh? You’re going to call me bitter? Are you serious? That’s the best you’ve got? Here we have yet another failed attempt to undermine the reviewer by supposedly exposing their real motives, a tactic of such worthless wrongheadedness that is outdone only by its predictability. The word bitter crops up almost as much as the word hipster in time-wasting dismissals of negative music reviews and seems like the go-to word for those high on anger but low on reason.

Look, I’m not saying people shouldn’t ever take issue with what a reviewer says, by all means take a crack at it. Just do me a favour and don’t use any of the examples I’ve listed. Either say what it is you like about the album or make your repudiation of the review original and entertaining. It’s not that difficult.

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